Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy has called for politicians to speak politely and refrain from using insults in political debate.
His comments came during a lunch on Saturday with supporters in France, where he is currently in self-imposed exile avoiding long-standing defamation charges in the Cambodian courts.
Rainsy said that the use of insults in politics should be brought to an end in favor of peaceful negotiations to serve the nation’s interests.
“The use of insults and ‘painting colors’ is not a way for us to solve national issues in the proper manner,” he said.
“We need to listen to one another. We can positively cooperate with one another. If there’s no agreement, there shouldn’t be criticism from one side on what the other is doing. Let them do what they want. If we think we can do better, just show them we can do better.”
Sam Rainsy is facing a two-year jail term on charges of defamation over allegations he made in 2008 that Foreign Minister Hor Namhong colluded with the Khmer Rouge regime while he was in Boeung Trabek Prison in the late 1970s. Rainsy was stripped of his parliament immunity by a vote in the Cambodian People’s Party-dominated parliament on November 16.
Ou Virak, director of the think tank Future Forum, told VOA Khmer that insults had no place in political debate in a democracy.
“In fact, insults are a vulgar act and they should have been put to an end a long time ago,” Virak said. “It is not something politicians should resort to. Cambodian people should not insult one another.”
However, Virak said Rainsy himself had been guilty of using improper language in political speeches. It would be a good thing if all politicians, including Rainsy, could refrain from using insults, but still be critical of other leaders, he added.
“I think that he should think of criticism toward policies and political ideas,” he said. “I encourage politicians to criticize one another. But criticism should be done in democratic manner and in terms of raising different ideas.”
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan welcomed Rainsy’s statement, agreeing that political campaigning should focus on policies rather than personal insults.
“Each party should talk about their achievements and their contributions for voters to take into consideration,” he said. “There should not be any use of insults for one party’s gain. This is wrong. It is even cheaper than advertisements. Thus, if he [Rainsy] knows that what he did before was not right, it is a good thing if he changes now.”
However, Eysan said he doubted whether Rainsy would follow his own advice, given his record for inflammatory political speeches. He cited allegations made by Rainsy that CPP leaders are under the influence of Vietnam, and the opposition leader’s comparison of senior government officials to Nazis.
“He does differently from what he says,” Eysan said. “They say he turns on the right signal and goes left. Thus, I don’t believe much for now, unless I see his actual actions.”